Advertisement

TRAIKOS: Sabres have already waited way too long to trade Jack Eichel

Article content

Can the Buffalo Sabres play another season with Jack Eichel as their captain?

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

According to GM Kevyn Adams, who on Thursday said he “does not feel any pressure” to trade the disgruntled 24-year-old, the answer is reportedly yes. But why in the world would they want to?

Why bring back Eichel when you have moved on from trying to contend and are now trying to rebuild again? Why bring him back when you weren’t willing to do likewise with winger Sam Reinhart, defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen or goalie Linus Ullmark?

More importantly, why bring him back when he doesn’t want to be there?
This is no longer about maximizing the value of a star player who might be one of the top 10 centres in the league. This is about turning a page and doing what is best for No. 1 overall pick Owen Power, their 2018 No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin and a young team that needs to grow and develop in a positive environment.

You can’t do that with Eichel around. He’s suffered too much. He’s soured too much.

“The process is not working,” Eichel’s agents, Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli, wrote in a statement released late on Friday night in regards to how long it is taking Buffalo to trade its franchise player. “As previously stated, we fully anticipated a trade by the start of the NHL free agency period.”

It’s not difficult to see where this all went wrong. Since drafting Eichel with the second overall pick in 2015, the Sabres have extended their playoff drought to 10 years, while chewing through multiple coaches and general managers. But the main point of contention now involves a neck injury that Eichel suffered in March and the surgery it would require to fix it.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The Sabres’ medical team, which ultimately has final say in the matter, prefers anterior cervical discectomy with fusion surgery, which involves fusing the bones together into one. Eichel wants artificial disc replacement surgery, a newer and somewhat controversial procedure that literally replaces his injured disc with an artificial one.

With the Sabres’ preferred method of surgery, there is reportedly a 25% chance that Eichel will require additional corrective surgery within the next 10 years. The other form of surgery reportedly drops the chances of an additional surgery to 5%.
For someone who will be 34 years old in 2031, it could be the difference between playing an additional five years or an early retirement. Of course, artificial disc replacement surgery presents its share of risks. The main one being that this is still a fairly new procedure, which no other NHLer has undergone.

Either way, with the season approaching, Eichel needs to make a decision — and he needs to make it fast — if he doesn’t want to miss any more time.

“What is being left out of the discussion is that Jack would be able to play in the NHL for the start of the season pending medical clearance if he were allowed to have the surgery he desires even as of this date,” his agents wrote in the statement. “This process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL and it is not working.”

For the same reason the Sabres traded Ryan O’Reilly after the former captain said he lost the love for the game and had adopted a mindset of “being OK with losing,” the team must now walk away from Eichel — even if it is for an underwhelming return that fans will no doubt criticize.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

More and more, that’s looking like it will be a reality.

Adams has waited too long. The time to have traded Eichel was months ago. But Adams’ asking price was too high or he either misread the market. Either way, the number of teams pursuing Eichel appears to have shrunk considerably in the past couple of weeks — and the few who are interested might have just been scared away by this latest statement.

“I’ve said over and over again, and Jack in particular, the phone rings, we have conversations, but I think what’s critically important to make sure is clear is that we’re in control of this process,” Adams said in a Zoom news conference on Thursday. “If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, that is going to help us improve, whether that’s to improve right away or improve down the road, those are all the things we’d be open to.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
Try refreshing your browser.

The Sabres might be in control of the situation. But they have lost a ton of leverage recently. It’s never easy to get full value for a player who demands a trade. It’s even more difficult when that player wants an experimental surgery.
Minnesota and Los Angeles are reportedly both out of the bidding wars. The Rangers, who aren’t interested in including 2020 No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere or Kaapo Kakko (second overall in 2019), might also be out for the time being. And though Vegas recently freed up cap space by moving out Marc-Andre Fleury, it also just traded for Evgenii Dadonov, whose contract has two years and $10 million left, making an Eichel trade more difficult to pull off.
That leaves the Anaheim Ducks, who are in no rush to speed up a rebuild that is just getting off the ground. If that’s the case, maybe Eichel returns for one more miserable year.

“I’m not worried about distraction, I’m worried about doing what’s right for the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said. “And that’s why I say I’m taking the emotion out of it. We look at what is best for us moving forward, and if there’s something that makes sense, we’ll do it.”

mtraikos@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Michael_Traikos

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Kirkland Lake

This Week in Flyers